|From an article by Mary Hayden, ‘Charity Children in|
I just came across a wonderful site mostly dedicated to strange happenings in Ireland long ago, many culled from newspapers and legal documents at the time.
It's called Sibling of Daedalus
(thanks to Broadsheet.ie
for highlighting it ) and you could spend hours perusing it. It is beautifully illustrated.
Here’s a few examples:
This piece is about a particularly horrific custom in Ireland in the 18th century.
“Children under the age of six years were not received [into the workhouse]. The younger ones were to be cared for by the authorities of the parishes to which they belonged. Now the greater part of these babies were foundlings – the practice of exposing children being scandalously common – and no parish wished to be at the expense of their upbringing.
"It became common for the churchwardens to employ a woman, officially known as a ‘parish nurse’, but commonly known as a ‘lifter’, who made nightly rounds and ‘lifted’ any infants whom she found lying about. She transported them to the next parish and laid them in the first convenient spot. Sometimes she placed a lump of narcotic called ‘diacodim’ in the mouth of the baby, to stupefy it and prevent it from crying; of course it must have happened that the ‘lifter’ of the second parish moved the infant again, perhaps back. One can well believe that, after three or four such removes, the poor baby required nothing other than a grave.”
This one is about another horrific custom if you were male or female and unlucky enough not to be married. This is from "Hall, Ireland, Its Scenery and Character, Vol 1 (1841)":
|"Hall, Ireland, Its Scenery and Character,|
Vol 1 (1841)"
“In Waterford, some years ago, the lower classes had a species of amusement, we believe, peculiar to them: it was practised on Ash Wednesday, and was called ‘drawing the log’. It was instituted as a penitential exercise to the bachelors and maidens who permitted Lent to arrive without joining in ‘the holy bands’. The log was a large piece of timber, to which a long rope was attached; it was drawn through the streets of the city, followed by a crowd of men and boys of the lowest grade, armed with bludgeons, shouting ‘Come draw the log, come draw the log, bachelors and maidens, some draw the log’ … the most scandalous scenes of cruelty often ensued; young bachelors and maidens being forced from their homes, tied to ‘the log’ and dragged through the city. The custom has, of late years, been very properly discontinued.”
the Dublin Historical Record, available on the Irish Maritime Museum website here.
Here is an amazing one about sex, intrigue and murder of a baby from 1865 in Ballinasloe’s work house.
“A sad story from the Cork Examiner, 1st June 1865 (courtesy of Ireland Old News), recounting a scandal which must have shocked the Galway town of Ballinasloe":
“BALLINASLOE, SUNDAY, NINE o’CLOCK, P.M.—The Master, Mr. David Breen and Miss Duane, the school mistress, were arrested about three hours ago for the murder of the infant found in the privy of the workhouse on Wednesday last. It appears that on the night of Thursday, the day the inquest was held, the master revealed to his wife the startling fact that he had carried on an illicit intercourse with Miss Duane for some time, and the result of her becoming pregnant by him. He made a similar confession to the Rev. John Cotton Walker, rector of the parish, observing that his conscience would not let him be at ease.
"Intimation being given to John M. Hatchell, Esq., R.M., both he and Miss Duane were arrested by Head-Constable Ellis about six o’clock, and brought to the police barracks. Mr. Breen not only admits the criminal intercourse with the wretched woman but that he was aware of her pregnancy; that in March last she went to Dublin for the purpose of being privately confined, but that, on her return, she wrote him a note, stating she destroyed the child before she went, and told him where she put it, wanting him to have the privy cleared in a few days after, which he declined doing, nor would he think of doing so, only the manure was required for the farm. The wretched woman has, as yet, made no confession of her guilt. I understand a full inquiry will be held to-morrow. The greatest sensation prevailed through every part of the town on hearing of the arrest of the parties.”
Finally, here is more intrigue and derring-do worthy of Agatha Christie
From the Anglo-Celt, December 4th, 1851:
“The Court of Exchequer, too, has furnished its quota to the general fund in the case of MATHEWS v. HARTY, which was an action brought by Mr. Mathews, a Sizar and Scholar of T.C.D., against Doctor Harty, the keeper of a mad house in Dublin, for having had him illegally put up as a dangerous lunatic in Swift’s. It came out upon the defence, that the young man was the illegitimate son of the Doctor by a female who had been attacked with temporary insanity but had recovered. As the case is still at hearing we refrain from observations."